In personal injury cases, damages are typically economic (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic (pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.). In some cases, punitive damages may also be available. A damage cap limits the amount of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case. This article will discuss the different types of damages, the associated caps, and some exceptions to the rules.
What is a Damage Cap?
A damage cap is a state law limiting the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case. Not all states have damage caps, but South Carolina does. The purpose of a damage cap is to prevent sky-high jury verdicts and keep personal injury awards more predictable and reasonable.
The Different Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases
As mentioned above, three types of damages may be available in a personal injury case: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are those that have a specific monetary value attached to them. Examples of economic damages are:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Home services needed after an injury
Non-economic damages are more subjective, difficult to put a dollar value to, and typically relate to the pain and suffering caused by the injuries. These include:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (companionship)
Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious. As a monetary form of punishment, punitive damages can be substantial.
How are Economic Damages Calculated?
Economic damages are typically calculated using one of two methods: the multiplier method or the per diem method.
The Multiplier Method
Under the multiplier method, an economist will calculate the total amount of economic damages and then multiply that number by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of the injuries. This number is then used to determine the amount of non-economic damages. South Carolina uses this method to calculate damages.
The Per Diem Method
With the per diem method, an economist will calculate the total amount of economic damages and then divide that number by the number of days between the accident and the trial. This number is then used to determine the amount of non-economic damages.
How are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate because they do not have a specific monetary value attached to them. Instead, the jury will consider the severity of the injuries, the impact on the victim’s life, and other factors when determining an appropriate award.
How are Punitive Damages Calculated?
Punitive damages are also difficult to calculate because there is no set formula. Instead, the jury will consider the severity of the defendant’s actions, the impact on the victim, and other factors when determining an appropriate award.
South Carolina’s Damage Caps in 2022
Damage caps in South Carolina can change annually, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest limits. Here are the caps that will be in place for personal injury cases filed in 2022:
Because economic damages are reimbursement for objectively verifiable financial losses, there is no limit on the amount that can be recovered. These losses may not only represent current losses but future losses, as well.
There is no limit to non-economic damages that may be awarded, except in medical malpractice cases where the cap is set at $350,000.
The punitive damages cap in South Carolina is limited to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000. For example, if compensatory damages (economic or non-economic) amount to $50,000, punitive damages would be $150,000. But, if compensatory damages amount to $250,000, punitive damages would be capped at $500,000.
Special Exceptions to Damage Caps
In some cases, damage caps may go higher than the limits set above. These “special exceptions” often involve cases where there is more than one defendant or other special circumstances.
For example, if a medical malpractice lawsuit involves more than one doctor or medical facility, the cap for non-economic damages is $350,000 for each plaintiff. However, the sum of civil liability for all defendants involved must not exceed $1,050,000 in most cases. The other caveat to this cap is if it is found that the defendants were grossly negligent, willful, wanton, reckless, or engaged in fraudulent practices, in which case, there is no limit to the amount of damages that may be awarded.
For punitive damages, there are special circumstances that may come into play if the defendant was reckless or potentially committed a felony during the act, awards could reach as high as $2,000,000.
What if the Damages Cap is Not Enough?
In some instances, the damage caps may not be enough to compensate an injury victim fully. In these cases, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina for additional damages. However, you would need to consult with an attorney that is experienced in this type of tort claim.
How to Maximize a Personal Injury Settlement
You can do a few things to help ensure you receive the maximum settlement possible for your personal injury case. First, it’s important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. This will not only help document your injuries but will also give you a better idea of the extent of your injuries and how long they may take to heal.
Next, it’s important to keep track of all expenses related to your accident, including medical bills, missed work, and any other costs. This will help you determine the full extent of your economic damages.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina, which is three years from the date of the accident. This means that you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait too long, you may be barred from recovery.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in South Carolina today to discuss your legal options and ensure your rights are protected.
What if the Defendant Cannot Pay the Damages?
Suppose the defendant does not have enough money to pay the damages awarded by the jury. In that case, the victim may still be able to recover some or all of the money by filing a lawsuit against the defendant’s insurance company. However, it’s important to note that most insurance policies have limits on the amount of money that will be paid out for a personal injury claim.
It’s also important to note that if the jury awards punitive damages, these are not covered by insurance, and the victim will have to file a separate lawsuit against the defendant to collect these damages.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be wondering if you should file a personal injury lawsuit. The answer to this question depends on many factors, including the severity of your injuries, the cost of your medical bills, and the insurance coverage of the parties involved.
An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you determine whether filing a lawsuit is in your best interests. Contact David Aylor Law Offices today to discuss your case and get started on the path to recovery.